REPORT BY OLIVER E SOE THET, PRESIDENT OF MYANMAR CHEFS ASSOCIATION, Ad Verbatim:
Yangon / Myanmar – Myanmar Chefs Association
Myanmar Chefs Association, Singapore Chefs’ Association, Chinese Culinary Association-Singapore & World Chefs Without Borders
500 boys a great meal cooking at an Ancient Kitchen in Myanmar
Chef Tony Khoo, since 4 years chief judge at Food Hotel Myanmar “Myanmar Culinary Arts Competition “in Yangon. Tony the main engine of 2016 charity cooking for 700 girl orphans at Mingaladon & Little Sister Home of Age asked us late 2016 already to do again a very special charity event with his friends, the Chinese Chefs from Singapore and Myanmar Young Chefs in Myanmar. It was no other than well known Chef Pung Lu Tin and the Chinese Culinary Association Singapore. 12 chefs came to Myanmar during the Food Hotel Myanmar 2017 and on 10th June 2017 a big Charity was cooked-off for poor children, children in need. It was an idea that turned reality.
Not only good and healthy meals, but also school support and a better livelihood for children. Chef Tony Khoo set the bar to bring food, vision and hope to 500 children in need.
Quick we knew a good place, the ” Hnit Aung San – boys correction / prison Center ” at Kawmu. Several times Myanmar Chefs Association had been there already since 2008 Nargis,- with clothing, medical drugs, dental treatment, cooking competition and many more. The Center invented by a Belgium priest in the 30s, than days away travelling from Yangon through thick forests by horse or on foot. He used it as a vocational training center, possibly the first one in Myanmar so. In the 60s Hnit Aung San became under the Government a kind of Young Boys prison & correction center where until the late eighties, many bad stories were told to the Myanmar kids by their parents what all happen to children who went there. Mrs. Thitsa Wabo recalls her own childhood, when she did something wrong at home, her parents would tell her “we will send you to Hnit Aung San when you not follow… “. Long are these days gone. There are still thieve and murder cases among the children though. I said lets go to a place where near no one supports a place where we as chefs can show a role model and inspire the right young boys at present at a very wrong place………
500 boys = 500 sad stories of live
Most sad stories, like a small boy killed his step father while he was drunk and was beaten by his mother again and again. Or a boy which was a an orphan in charge for the fire at a Monastery kitchen. One day the kitchen burnt down and as no one wanted to be in jail — the small boy was made responsible and since than at Hnit Aung San. There were also children who were lost while playing on the streets in Yangon, and their parents would moved another place or city. Half of the boys who are in Hnit Aung San are there because they were badly mistreated by their families and are protected there – attending the school at the next door village.
The date, the budget, the aims and place, were quickly made clear. With the ultimate aim: To give a good day to the 500 boys of Hnit Aung San near Kawmu at Myanmar s Irrawaddy Delta…
The plan set, on Saturday 10. June 2017 over 60 chefs were at 4:45 am in front of Wyne Hotel Yangon, two busses at gasoline cost rate provided by Chef Myo Min Soe s family, a light truck and several cars moved in time sharp to the Irrawaddy Delta town Kawmu. Thank you Chef Myo Kin Soe.
Loaded with 500 each quality:
School bags, modern & Myanmar traditional
Quality Exercise Books, 100 sponsored by MSL Industries ( 6000 books)
Stationary ( 6000 pencils, each 1 ruler, rubber, eraser and stationary box )
Warm & soft Blankets
Donation Value of all at 6179 $ US ( items with food ), total 6534 $ US ( including logistics )
Add another round 4000 $ US for Chef Pung and friends flight & hotel cost to Myanmar
And next to 15 viss of pork, 500 pack of Shwe Sin ( Golden Elephant Comp. ) Noodle, much seasoning from Nestle, 120 kg shrimp sponsored by MSL Industries ( also for 1100 lunch box to the poor in Hlaing Thayar same day ) much food from Premium Food Service & Snacks from Grand Twin Enterprise and Drinks for all,- MCA vice president & co founder Ma Thuzar arranged 600 cup best organic Shwe Yin Mar Arabica coffee – Ko Than Hlaing from Nestle Professionals Myanmar prepared as before good cold drinks for 600 people at side. 750 kg of good Rice we already ordered to be at site.
At Kawmu the team split,- frontier chefs team direct to Hnit Aung San – another 20 miles into the ” rural area “,- too far to walk for a boy escaping the place. The frontier chefs team to set up all Kitchen area, fire places with there Hnit Aung San s 30 years there Head Chef Daw Aye Aye… a lady chef in charge for the 500 boys plus staff daily meals. Lead by Pastry Chef Aghee, Bernard, Mg Mg Myat ” chef turned bridge engineer & chef – Lawyer Boat Boat from Hsipaw with Food artist Ye Naing and many others.
The second team with Chef Pung from Singapore – “Chinese Chefs” under lead of Chef Kyaw Kyaw of Le Planteur, Pastry Chef Zaw Sai Maung Kham, Thein Naing and Chef Myint Than Kyaw first at Kawmu village market, made the local seller there happy with volume orders on vegetable, onion, garlic etc ” A Myanmar Local market experience ” also for Tony Khoo, WACS Vice President and WCWB board member KK Yau, from US Ray McCue, Peter Tan – Penang, Eric Wong, Leons Tan and Kong Kok Kiang, to make it a whole team of World Chefs Without Borders, Chinese Cuisine Singapore, Young Chefs and MCA Pastry Alliance of Myanmar.
Cooking 500 meals in an Ancient Kitchen Museum
Aside, all non Myanmar chefs first had to get familiar with a two centuries old pre-war style kitchen. Not one electrical item was available except a fade shine of a 40 w bulb. Chef Pung, Tony Khoo and KK Yau took the lead overlooked the all food items bought and sponsored, and designed a menu and assigned duties in different to the various “Kitchens”. In a way near under the rain, a bit rainy or dry kitchen,- WCWB board member, US Chef Ray McCue a Prof. of Johnson & Wales noted direct :”…help, here help is needed – here something needs to be done – this is not a place to stay as this. Yes the past 60 years this Hnit Aung San kitchen and Chef Aye Aye saw little attention by past Governments to ensure the minimum standards of a Kitchen, the most essentials are still missing. So good news for the new Principle U Aung Soe Zaw from the new Governments Social Welfare Ministry ( in charge ),– the budgets for better food are risen just now.
Still without the help of the prison boys most probably no one of us chefs would have got a meal on the table that day. The boys, master in controlling the fire knew exactly which kind of wood was needed. Controlling well with small and big parts the speed of cooking through the different heat the fire produced. Buddy to Buddy chefs went along today with the boys at Hnit Aung San, not without everyone had a great day and lots of fun.
MCA – WCWB & MSL Industries, ( Mr. Ang donated 100 quality roofing sheets ) as a quick fix arranged the one kitchens roof totally to renew soon,- a new 10 kw compressor and pump are bought by MCA-WCWB as at present just 1 house and admin have water supply,- most children need to wash and bath at the Kitchens water basin…. Target end of July 17 to be done with volunteer Myanmar Chefs on the roof….
A special section of chefs was in charge for cooking and packing of 1100 Shrimp & Rice lunch boxes for the poor squatters of Hlaing Thayar at the end of the day to be donated by all chefs – a good warm up and brain child of WCWB Chairman Chef Willment Leong, requested days before.
1996 MCA founding member and Chef turned bridge Engineer, Butcher Mg Mg Myat took on the pork to trim & cut,– the young boys of Hnit Aung San had already started with kg s of Onions and Garlic to peel. One section took care the rice to steam ( here also repairs & welding was needed – MCA-WCWB arranged it Kawmu locally to ensure full use again, saves them 1 whole load less of rice cooking and all the fire wood saved… ).
A 5 course menu treat for Hnit Aung San boys
Pork with potatoes, hot & sour shrimps, vegetable, rice, the “Golden Elephant” noodles and a clear sour leave soup with bamboo shoot were the great outcome 12 hours after Yangon departure,- right time to prepare Dinner for the 500 boys and staff of Hnit Aung San. Chef Aye Aye enjoyed a rare ” Day Off “. There were much of seasoning ingredients and rice for the next days to use.
MCA Pastry Alliance entertained 500 boys with food art, competition, live music
The morning was arranged by MCA pastry alliance and food art chef Ye Naing with a hands on ” vocational training ” to the younger boys with marzipan work, modeling your best design which was enthusiastic attended by many boys. While pastry chef Aghee, Zaw, Sai and Thein Naing with crew arranged a fantastic Myanmar traditional Sticky Rice Competition ” the Thamanee Pwe “,,, for three teams ,- the Singapore Guests, MCA team and Hnit Aung San boys team ( of course all with members of Hnit Aung San ). The height of the event ended in drum music of whatever was possible to drum on or with,- WCWB US Chef Ray McCue showed best of his roots and be a specialist in drums – sound to the rhythm of the chefs & boys fighting the Thamanee Pwe off. 80.000 kyat a big money at a still “prison”.
Chef Thein Naing and the MCA Chefs Live Band – this day with a 500 boys voices best support and several great solo voices of the Hnit Aung San boys. Chef Zaw joined with the Violin, Sai on percussion, Aghee Harmonica and near blind Chef Ko Phyu with Thein Naing at lead guitar,– hard rock and Myanmar from traditional to pop songs.
“My family was poor and I was often hungry” said WCWB board member US Chef Ray McCue..
The highlight of the MCA live concert was than the all donation hand over by Chef Pung, Tony Khoo, KK Yau, Ray and all the volunteer chefs to each boy,- a dozen books, stationary, schoolbag & soft blankets taken and held by the children as a great treasure of “Their Own”. Chef Pung thanked everyone who helped especially Principle U Aung Soe Zaw, Chef Daw Aye Aye as top host to us and all volunteers,- WCWB chef Ray told his live story to the kids and boys, as his family was poor and he often hungry when he was young, made him decide to become a chef and have a job and food ever since, and eventually becoming a Culinary Professor at a USA educational institute. Ma Khet Khet translated to the boys and maybe one day we see several of these usually Good Boys as colleges in one of our Kitchens or at a restaurant we would dine. It is never about money, it is about a vision first, the rest will come usually alone.
Than food served in biggest pots , the traditional ” thank you ” song by the boys and plates needed quickly a refill – a sign of best cooking and NOT always the instance of “Many Chefs spoil the Soup”. When leadership, team spirit and honest friendship come together, everything was made possible. At a day when no one of all 600 people from all corners of live thought about race, religion, color of skin or background. Just for the good and honest cause to help and support each other.
Many thanks to Tony Khoo, Chefs Pung Lu Tin, Chong Wui Choong, Lai Yong Meng, Li Jin Jong, Tai Kok Siong, Tah Kean Loon Aaron, Wonng Heng Ah, Wu Hai Feng, Kong Kok Kiang, Leons Tan, Eric Wong & Chefs KK Yau, Peter Tan, Ray McCue, Chef Kaung Myat Thu – wife & Myanmar Young Chefs with all volunteers and Pastry Chefs, and our most valuable sponsors and supporters.
The not at its end, on the way back all chefs jointly delivered 1100 shrimp / rice lunch boxes to poor squatters at the Yangon s Hlaingthayar outskirts…. again in a very friendly , peaceful atmosphere at the usually rough area….,- Chairman Willment — “…. WCWB Myanmar – Mission Accomplished …. ” .
As a personal note from myself: Some month ago we, MCA were asked on Face Book:.”… why we need to donate money to people in Peru after their flooding…..enough hungry also are in Myanmar…. ” — I like to say right on one hand, where one can see only a smallest part of this, our all world,- Myanmar. On the other hand our all World is much bigger than only Myanmar and it is ” One World with One People. “….. usually and you see as above; …. the one which is able to give, usually always also get back….”when or where in need.” We at MCA like to look at this way – For our Whole World to see Myanmar as a respected, responsible, important part of it.
Happy to see you all again at and around Food Hotel Myanmar 6.6. to 8.6.2018 for another and exciting Fun Cooking, Charity and happiness to people in need in Myanmar, yours
Oliver E Soe Thet
President Myanmar Chefs Association
Global board, World Chefs Without Borders